Madec (Michael Douglas) is a rich, ruthless and extremely successful businessman who is also an avid game hunter. Searching for a new trophy to add to his collection, he hires a young tracker, Ben (Jeremy Irvine), as his guide through the Reach, a vast and hostile basin in the Mojave Desert. But when the excursion takes a tragic turn for the worse, Madec knows his money and reputation are at stake and Ben, as the only witness, finds himself in the tycoon's crosshair.
Patchy Outback-set Thriller
- Beyond the Reach review by PV
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You rated this film: 3
This film starts well. The characters are believable and well-drawn, and you can almost smell the sticky heat of the desolate and dangerous Outback.
However, once we get into the final act, the thing veers into silliness.
It's based on a book so maybe it's just following that. But I have also noticed how so many Hollywood films just cannot seem to leave things be in the third act - there always has to be some unbelievable appendix shoved in at the end to make things more exciting (allegedly). Here, it just spoils the film.
A far better Outback movie is the one starting Ray Winstone: 'The Proposition'.
This is just Hollywood guff, ultimately, and unbelievable - I just do not believe the Michael Douglas character would behave in this way. And boy does Michael Douglas look old in this movie - every day of his 72 years. No wonder Catherine Z-J is depressed!
Michael Douglas can be one of the best actors around when thrown a decent bone. With Beyond the Reach, he’s given a fairly big bone to work with. Drawing from his experience as a quietly crazed character with dark thoughts, Douglas melts into the role of the villain for this picture. He sneers at his prey, taunts them with his distinctive brand of crass humor and only brings out his blackest grit for the moments when it’s absolutely required. The man was born to play a villain who constantly monologues with that perfectly smug tone. From the greedy Gordon Gekko of Wall Street to the bitter D-Fens from Falling Down, he’s been perfecting this character for years.
And now Douglas is finally at the point in his career where he can make it look so effortlessly. In this script, based on the 1972 novel Deathwatch, Douglas plays businessman/hunter John Madec. He takes pleasure in his hunting across the Mojave Desert with his big gun and big truck built to cook food and mix drinks. How can a businessman hunt without a martini? Armed with a permit for hunting bighorn sheep, Madec hires college kid Ben (Jeremy Irvine) to tag along with him on his desert outing. The two hit things off fairly well during the car ride and stalking the land for big game, despite Ben being a mostly quiet individual.
Such a trait would seem like a benefit for Madec when he kills a man by accident. But Madec doesn’t want to take any chances and decides to fire at the corpse with Ben’s gun to let him know they’re in this together. At least they would be until Ben secretly tries to make a break for his phone and Douglas goes crazy on him. Forcing him to remove his clothes, Madec forces the poor guy to walk the desert naked, following him behind from a distance with his truck and his gun. Hoping that Ben will die from either the heat or lack food and water, Madec takes his sweet time watching Ben scurry under the hot sun.
The rest of the film plays out beautifully as an intense and atmospheric journey through the desert with Irvine fighting for his life as Douglas sneers through the scope of his rifle. The simplicity of the death march is what makes this movie work so well. We’re given just enough backstory on Ben to makes us root for him to succeed and minor hints about Madec to make him a mysterious antagonist. Thanks to the performances of Douglas and Irvine, in addition to the sharp editing by Jean-Baptiste Léonetti, a rather base and simple story of human hunting is transformed into something more engaging to watch than it should be.
The chase continues to throw so many discoveries and encounters in the desert that by the time the film reaches the third act it feels exhausted. The climax ends up being a rather big disappointment for how the situation seems resolved, is put on hold and concludes itself rather quickly. The final confrontation is rather underwhelming in how it weaves a much grander and confusing ending than what originally transpires in the book. Rather than leaving as easily as it came, this movie decides to go for a bigger ending that feels so out of place it makes me hope there’s an actual ending from the novel somewhere on the cutting room floor. You can sense that Douglas is running out of steam by the end as well when his character is reduced to screaming and throwing dynamite at his prey.
Beyond the Reach is not a unique story, but it is a solid scenario for Irvine and Douglas to show off their acting chops. The film is much more amazing in that regard as Michael Douglas elevates a rather simple performance by never once phoning in the role. Similar to his characters from other films, you just can’t take your eyes off him in any scene. At his age, he still has that charisma which makes him the bad guy you can’t help but love to hate. He truly deserves a better film for his talents, but they’re at least not put to waste for this movie.